«FOR MISSIONARIES ONLY by Joseph L. Cannon This book is a carousel of impressions, opinions, and views of a vet- eran foreign missionary, this book ...»
FOR MISSIONARIES ONLY
Joseph L. Cannon
This book is a carousel of impressions, opinions, and views of a vet-
eran foreign missionary, this book revolves around clusters of mis-
sionary concerns. Comings and goings, successes and failures, sup-
port and lack of support, indigenity and paternalism are freely and
openly discussed with hope that fellow missionaries and would-be
missionaries will benefit from Joseph Cannon's experiences and
These vignettes of missionary life are straight from the heart. They are honest reflections. Joseph Cannon doesn't claim to be a special type of person and would be the first to disclaim sainthood for him- self, his fellow laborers, or the supporters of his work.
Missionaries will see themselves time and again in this fascinating book. It is filled with practical pointers and words of encourage- ment. Although the title is For Missionaries Only, those who sup- port foreign missionaries will also enjoy "walking in the shoes" of this veteran missionary.
Joseph L. Cannon served as a missionary on Okinawa. Prior to this assignment he was Visiting Professor of Missions at Harding College, Searcy, Arkansas. Many of the experiences to which he refers in his book were gained while he labored as a missionary in Japan. He is the author of several books published in the Japanese language, in English and Pidgin English of Papua New Guinea.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 70-89619 ISBN: 0-8010-2347-5 First printing, August 1975 Second printing, February 1978 Third printing, November 1980 Fourth printing, October 1994 The Scripture quotations in this publication are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyrighted 1946 and 1952 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and used by permission.
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The Last Stop Printing Service Tauranga, New Zealand PDF Version prepared by Tobey Huff, D. Min., RI P.O.Box 1345 Port Vila, Vanuatu Preface Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? - GALATIANS 4:16 A good friend of mine asked me if I was referring to him in one of the sections of this book. It took me about fifteen minutes to say Yes. No rudeness was meant by me, and I have tried not to be offen- sive, but I find it hard to speak of specific problems in a general way. At the same time, if the reader is not helped in a definite and constructive way the purpose of the writing is frustrated. Quite a few of my fellow missionaries have read the manuscript, and I am indebted to them for their kind, but not always flattering com- ments. My sister, who pored over the manuscript fixing this and that, and straightening out my poor English (I hope she didn't miss anything), said that the contents of this little book would make some folks angry. I really don't know whether there will be enough interest in what I wrote for that to happen, but if it does, I hope it is not because of some discourtesy of mine, but because something true and worthwhile has stirred them up. Things that get under my skin bother me the most and benefit me the most. Maybe this is true of others also.
A friend told me the other day that he heard I had written a book on "missionary methods." I objected, stating that it was not my purpose to do so; nor do I feel qualified by study or experience to do so.
This book`was written with the idea of sharing with missionaries and those interested in missionary work some of my own feelings and experiences, hoping that there may be some encouragement, some blessing for those who read it.
A good brother accused me of “being on the defensive... speaking subjectively from your own limited experience." To this I must plead guilty; my only subjective defense being a heartfelt hope that maybe some missionary sweating it out somewhere in the world might find some beneficial thing in my obviously limited experience.
Up and Down The winds of change blow across the harvest fields and the golden grain blows this way and that. Up and down it moves in unpredictable ways. So it has been in Japan. There were periods of intense interest when dozens and dozens were reaped for Christ. It seemed as if we would sweep the whole city, the whole province, the whole nation. And then it was over. The wheat leaned away from the sickle and we missed. The school of fish moved on and the hooks were left dangling. We must search; we must sow again in hope of a future harvest. We are encouraged; we are discouraged. You hear how fruitful the work in Japan has been. You hear also how unfruitful it has been. Both reports are correct. To see one side and not the other is to settle for half the story. The ups and downs of this field require the hard work of the harvester in the field and the steady patience of a fisherman. I have learned that the watch word is faithfulness. Faithfulness through it all and in spite of it all.
Back and Forth This has been the story of missionaries. Always the goings and comings. Where are my companions of former years? I search for their presence as for a happy dream that has slipped from remembrance. I have felt the loneliness of my vigil. Yet their work lives on in the lives of those they brought to Christ. The accumulative effect of missionary endeavor is worth it all. As the workers rotate the field is harvested. The price paid was high.
It took its toll of health and wealth, suffering and scars. I rejoice with those who are carrying on, and I weep for the good men brought low. My missionary brethren made me sweet and made me bitter. They were saints; they were sinners. As I ponder the reasons for their comings and goings, I think, What if they had never come? There would be nothing in Japan now. There would not be scores of churches of Christ and the institutions of good works and glory to God. I am satisfied, I am thankful.
Come and go, oh, missionary of Christ! Let the work go on!
In and Out This was and is the story of Japanese Christians. Baptize ten, lose ten. Baptize ten, lose nine. Baptize ten, lose five. Baptize none and lose none. How hard it is for them to buck their pagan society. How great their tribulations have been! We can criticize, but can we understand? We can be disillusioned with them, but can we bear with them? Some of these children last about as long in the faith as their missionary fathers do in the field. They are as true to Christ as their teachers are to them. But alas, this is only partly true, for some leave sooner.
But, thanks be to God, some never leave. I have been here long enough to see another phenomena - the return of the prodigal.
What happy times these are, when the ghostly images of faces almost forgotten take concrete form again. The reasons for their disappearance are forgotten; only the joy of their return fills our hearts. Yes, in and out, they come and go. The fears, the frustrations - they must be borne, but not without hope.
Round and Round Fightings and arguments, prosecutions and defenses, bickerings and quarrelings - I'm glad that isn't all that I remember. I can recall repentance and forgiveness, remorse and reconciliation. I guess we must learn the gospel the hard way, but the waste of it all, the stumbling blocks to the spread of the gospel! We could have done with less of it. The differences and disagreements must be, but when they are extended into hates and grudges, hardness and division, this is insufferable, a shame. When we fail in our fellowship, we belie the gospel we preach. Returning missionaries carry their peeves back with them and they get a chance for a new start over there, but the bitterness left in the hearts of the Japanese who sat at their feet goes on and on. Many scars remain in the body of Christ where the contrary missionary took his stand and turned his sword against his brothers. If it were not for the all-sufficient grace of Christ, the all-sufficient church would fracture itself to dust.
Only when love for one another is learned can the multitude of sins be covered and the wounds healed.
On and On I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! I have seen the sun rise over the vineyard, and its golden rays dance among the luscious clusters of hanging grapes. I have reached forth and tasted the delicious fruit. Yes, as some go back and forth, in and out, up and down, there are those faithful Japanese Christians who go on and on. With their roots in the earth, and their hearts in heaven, they bring forth fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. In the midst of change and decay they remain steady, on course. The genuineness of their faith cannot be doubted. The word of Christ in their lives cannot be denied. The work in the Japan harvest field is slow, rugged and hard, but is there an easy field? Wherever the gospel seed is sown, in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
God's will is being done on earth when we continue steadfastly sowing and reaping. On and on we must go, and one day, when it is all over we shall meet in heaven a lot of brothers and sisters who used to speak Japanese, who used to live across the wide Pacific. And they will be there because we and they kept on and on in the service of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
1. YOU SUCCEED WITHOUT SUCCESSAnd all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised. - HEBREWS 11:39 Being brought up in the tradition that success is the measure of a man, missionary work has proven to be full of frustrations that irritate, and irritations that frustrate. Things never seem to work out the way you want them, when you want them. I've tried being the high-powered executive type, but always end up doing everything myself. I've tried being the non-direct, all-knowing psychologist type, and ended up accomplishing nothing. Why can't natives, oops! I mean nationals, be more interested in my success as a missionary?
Again, we read in our religious papers about the great successes of missionaries in this or that country, and I find myself wishing I was there. How come the work is hard going only in the place where I am? Why are the nationals where I am not flocking to hear the gospel? Why do the people I love remain indifferent and cold?
Maybe those papers do what I do and only print the good stuff.
Maybe they aren't telling the whole truth. Is it possible that behind it all others are not roaring successes either? I try to cover up all my failures, and never tell my supporters about them, for fear I will become a "financial failure." Wouldn't it be just a bit comforting to read, "Preacher Returned from Overseas Admits Very Little Accomplished," or, "Baptized One Hundred Yesterday; Can't Find Ninety Today." One thing I like about the Bible - it tells the whole story. If the lives of men of God recorded there were put into headlines you would read, "After a Lifetime of Hard Work and Suffering Jeremiah Passes into Obscurity with Nothing to Show for It." Or about Christ before Pilate, "After Three Years' Work Not One Convert Remains Faithful."
Success isn't everything, but doing the will of the Lord is.
Certainly there are successes in doing God's will, but they are not always obvious. Success in the sight of God could mean enduring failures in the sight of men. Overzealous advocates of Pauline methodology who promise success if Paul's "formula" is followed, need the headline which would read, "Paul Fails to Establish Church in Rome, the World's Most Strategic Center; Misses by Twenty Years; Methods Considered Unsuccessful."
The missionary preacher is not called to success, but to faithfulness. He is not sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel. The work is to be done to Please Christ, not to please readers. He is not to be judged by a sponsoring church, but the sponsoring Christ! The fruit of success, or the promise of his labors may not be experienced in his lifetime. His faith may be the testimonial and not his success.
In the chapter of Hebrews quoted above, along with the successes are listed the dismal failures, but the chief point is faith which surmounts difficulties, faith which endures faithfully, though that which was promised was not received. Some churches will only back a work fulfilled, but faithful churches will back a work unfulfilled. They will sow in hope, and endure until God's purposes are accomplished. Great will be their reward for they will have succeeded without success.
I've been told that I don't look like a missionary, and I don't know whether that's good or bad, but I can remember one occasion when I thought it was good. Not knowing I was a missionary, a national said to me, as he pointed out a missionary passing by, "I hate missionaries, they think they own everything and act like big shots.
"Being a Cannon, I could not see anything wrong with a big shot, but nevertheless my friend was irritated and he irritated me. I think I know what he was driving at, though.
Most of us landed on the mission field just ordinary fellows, and from average to poor families at that. But all of a sudden we are now foreign dignitaries, ambassadors, rich capitalists. Wow! This is about all our poor humble heads can stand. We get looked at wherever we go; we are like movie stars; we are important; we are just discovering how wonderful we are! Surely the little native churches must recognize this, too. We can tell them how things should be run. Didn't I just meet the mayor? Don't I have more money than the average fellow here? (Generally more than the average mayor.) Why, it soon becomes known in most places that every one who becomes a Christian must first be baptized by the missionary. I know places where baptisms are stored up until the Missionary arrives - what a grand harvest! The capital "M" can take credit for the whole works and write a fine report. I can remember "fudging" on somebody else's labor myself. A few "borrowed baptisms" here and there can enhance one's stature.